SMART Act Claims to Prevent Social Media Addiction
Do you sometimes find yourself wasting time by endlessly scrolling through social media content? Well if the new “Social Media Addiction Reduction Act” or the “SMART Act” (all the best laws have good acronyms) passes, then you may suddenly find yourself with a lot more free time.
The SMART act, proposed by US Senator Josh Hawley aims to curb the development of intentionally addictive behaviour within social media applications, and thus decrease social media addiction as a trend.
The act bans features on social media platforms that incentivize the continued use of the platform like Snapchat’s “Snapstreaks” and other psychological tricks that can make it difficult for social media users to disconnect and focus on their everyday lives.
The act also covers the use of “Dark Patterns”. Dark Patterns are used to manipulate users into performing an action. If the bill is passed, “Accept” and “Decline” boxes will have to be the same size, font and format so that it is easy for users to differentiate the two without being tricked into opting into something that they do not want.
If you’ve ever used Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, you’ll notice that as you scroll through the feed, more content automatically loads and you can continue browsing. Former Google ethicists have compared infinite scrolling to a bottomless glass. If you can’t reach the bottom, how will you know when to stop drinking?
Like anything else, consuming things in moderation is key. Social media is no different, we can become addicted and consume too much social content in a day because of these features. If we spend an excess of time on social media, it can be detrimental to our everyday lives.
Passing this bill may seem like a noble idea, but we question whether it is feasible to implement. Is it possible to define dark patterns concretely enough to legislate? We’ll definitely be keeping our eye on how this law progresses.